Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Penalty of Regulations

At a recent Oakdale City Council meeting a wonderfully informative story about the issue of Federal Regulations was related.  The City was facing the mandated requirement to change street signs to conform to federal regulations about-retro reflective signage.

In a report from the Oakdale City Engineer Staff:
Federal Regulations have established national standards for the use of traffic control and guide signs in the Manual of Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
As part of our annual reconstruction program we, in effect, replace three (3) percent of our signs. In addition, we typically replace another two (2) percent due to fading or knock downs. Therefore, we average $20,000 per year in sign replacement expenditures. The FHWA didn’t provide funding for the sign replacement program; however they allowed for the multiyear phase-in period.
This program will require us to replace 25% of our signs each year over the next four (4) years so that we have 100% compliance by January 1, 2015. Which results in an anticipated expenditure of $200,000/year over the next four (4) years.
Street Name Signs:
1) Specifications for nine inch Street Name Signs:
a) Sign should be nine inches in height.
b) Signs should be a minimum of 18” in length and a maximum of 60” in length.
This regulatory instance shows several of the issues with Federal Regulations versus local control.  Ultimately cities bear the burden of many regulations. Costs increase, in this case from $20,000/yr to $200,000/yr, budget plans go awry, inescapable increased taxes are created. The impact of this regulation would have more than erased the hard work done by the council and city staff in reducing the budget, to keep the city portion of taxes from increasing next year, as seen in this article from the Oakdale Patch.  This is the outcome that we the people do not want, and the City Council and City Staff have been working hard to prevent.

If timetable and planning are left to the City Council and City Staff to implement, then significant cost savings can be achieved.  This is greatly to the benefit of the people.  Balancing the City Budget can be made much more difficult or impossible by mandates from State and Federal Regulations that remove flexibility needed to adapt and make the best decisions.  The arbitrary deadlines and one size fits all rules increase costs, wasting city resources and ultimately citizen pocket books, and frustrates the best efforts of the City Council and City Staff.

Senate GOP looks to ease federal mandate on reflective road signs
06/20/11 “Tennessee Republican Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander last week introduced legislation that would waive the requirement that all states install more reflective road signs by 2018....”Obviously, everyone wants our roads to be as safe as possible, but the arbitrary deadlines assigned by Washington amount to an unfunded mandate on local governments at a time when they can least afford it," Corker said. "Instead of asking local governments to shell out $50 million, it seems like a much more reasonable approach to replace road signs when they need to be replaced instead of an arbitrary deadline assigned by some Washington bureaucrat."
In January President Obama had called for a government-wide review of regulations already on the books. The purpose was to identify rules that needed to be changed or removed because they were unnecessary, out-of-date, excessively burdensome or overly costly.  Fortunately this was one of the regulations that the Obama administration has recently rescinded

U. S. Department of Transportation Proposes to Eliminate Deadlines for Replacing Traffic Signs
August 30, 2011 U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Obama Administration is eliminating dozens of burdensome regulations on traffic signs which cash-strapped state and local governments expect will save them millions of dollars.
So when the federal government follows through and gets it right, they deserve to get plaudits.  Now, can we consider a few more...please?

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